Question: I applied for several positions on RedBalloon and now I have multiple job offers. What is the best way to turn down a job offer? Do I have any legal obligations?
Response: Congratulations, what a great problem to have!
The good news is that a job offer is just that – an offer. You are free to accept or decline the offer. You are also free to make a counter-offer, for example, asking for higher wages or more flexibility. At that point, the company is free to accept or reject your counter-offer, or to make their own counter to your counter.
Once you accept a job offer, you have a binding contract. But even then, most employment in the United States is at-will. This means that either you or the employer can end the employment relationship at any time, for any reason (although employers are still subject to anti-discrimination laws). So technically, even if you have accepted a job offer, you can resign the position at any time in favor of a better offer.
Even though a job offer may not come with legal obligations, there are still courtesy considerations. It is important to express gratitude for the offer, and to minimize any inconvenience to the company by your declining the offer. Not only is this good for your soul, it is good for your professional reputation. It’s a small world (some industries are quite small), and this may not be the last time you are on the job market.
Here are some common-sense tips for declining a job offer:
1. Let the company know as soon as you know. Don’t string the company along once you have made a decision.
2. Give your decision in writing. For a more personal touch, you can also call the person or persons who spent the most time with you during the recruitment process. You can even go old-fashioned and send a handwritten card. Nonetheless, it is best to send your official decision via email, for speed and convenience (both yours and the company’s).
3. Thank the company for the offer, and for their time in speaking with you. If you enjoyed or learned something from an interview or tour, add names and details. This demonstrates a desire to preserve the relationship.
4. You can give a generic reason for declining the offer, for example, you decided to pursue another opportunity, or the position is not the right fit for your family situation at this time. Be kind – do not criticize the company whose offer you are declining, or compare them unfavorably with your new employer. You may have valid concerns that led to declining the offer, but generally you should keep those to yourself.
May all freedom-loving applicants – and companies – have the blessing of multiple options,
Laura, the Labor Lawyer
Please note that this post does not constitute legal advice on your specific situation, and you do not have an attorney-client relationship with Laura. If you have questions for Laura, please send to email@example.com. Such questions may be used for general edification in this column.